"What a treat. Opera up very close with a pretty rich feast of passion.
Devon Opera are out to fulfil their vision of presenting high quality opera in small, but attractive venues, aiming to provide an experience that gets the artistic juices running. On this showing they most certainly demonstrate that regional opera is alive and very well.
The programme was in two parts. To begin with we had a delightful introduction to some of the professional young artistes engaged this year with solo renditions from a selection of Puccini's operas. Not all of them so familiar. It was good to hear baritone Timothy Connor give quiet controlled voice to an aria from the rarely heard opera Edgar. Soprano Suzanne Manuel delighted her audience with confident and assured interpretations of the famous 'Vissi d'arte' from Tosca and 'Un bel di' from Madame Butterfly. All very ably accompanied by music director, Joyce Clarke
The second part of the programme was a brave shot at giving us Acts 3 and 4 of Puccini's most loved work, La Boheme. Now this really is drama. Set in 1830's wintry Paris it is a story of poverty and desperation focussed on the lives of very young people. These two acts move remorselessly to its tragic, magnetic end.
An opera is normally witnessed on a large scale stage. What brings a surge of unexpected power to the small scale production is the fact that we watch at close hand, we are witnesses to the very size and reality of the world the characters actually inhabit. There was excellent detail given to the attic apartment, the choice of down beat costumes and atmospheric lighting. Plus, and by gosh this is a plus, the age of the performers was spot on to the people they were playing. Not only did they look the part, but they played it with an intensity and vulnerability that added to the impact of the overall experience
Leonel Pinheiro as the love stricken Rodolfo and Natasha Day as the fragile Mimi grabbed the opportunity, with fine voices, and clear high notes, to capture the final, hopeless moments of their love. They were accompanied by the determined, strong-voiced Marcello of Timothy Connor, Lynsey Docherty's well drawn brassy character of Musetta and the strong friendship of support supplied by Nathan Morrison and Matt Buswell. I particularly enjoyed Matt's bass baritone delivery of the farewell to his overcoat.
To deliver opera well needs good acting as well as good voices. This was achieved in spades. Ruth Bettesworth, as director, ensured there was a clear understanding of the lives of each of the characters and the intensity of each moment was given full emotional punch. Also the limited space, which included dance and duel, was imaginatively used to add colour to the strong story line
A stated aim of Devon Opera is to bring opera to new audiences, 'first timers'. If that is so then I suggest additional thought is given to marketing, making in-roads to attracting young people and the cost of tickets."
The first half of the production a selection of Arias from Puccini operas - Manon Laescaut, Tosca, La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, Edger, La Rondine, La Fanciulla del West and Turandot
Natasha Day, Lynsey Docherty, Suzanne Manuell, Timothy Connor, Leonel Pinheiro, Pianist Joyce Clarke and Presenter Peter Clarke
The second half of the production
Acts 3 & 4 of La Boheme Pianist Joyce Clarke and Presenter Peter Clarke
Mimi - Natasha Day
Musetta - Lynsey Docherty
Rodolfo - Leonel Pinheiro
Marchello - Timothy Connor
Colline - Mattew Buswell
Schaunard - Nathan Morrison
"What a treat. Opera up very close with a pretty rich feast of passion. Devon
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Company Number 05252578
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